Vet says Sutter Animal Shelter conditions improved
Conditions and management at the Sutter County Animal Shelter have improved in notable ways, according to a veterinarian who has been volunteering at the Yuba City facility.
And a recently formed logistics team is now streamlining changes to shelter operations, in anticipation of a brand new shelter building in the works.
But according to those involved in the process, a full-out effort on the part of public officials, shelter administrators — and the community — will be necessary to help correct long-standing problems with animal control and care in the county.
"We still have a lot of ground to cover," said Carol Vetri, a veterinarian who works at Northpointe Veterinary Hospital, and who spearheaded a much-needed vaccination program last year at the shelter on Second Street.
Vetri said that for years, animals adopted from the shelter were being brought to the animal hospital with parvo, distemper and other potentially fatal, but preventable diseases.
"I got tired of seeing these poor people adopting animals, and then watching them die," she said.
She began collecting monetary donations from friends, family members and clients to start her own one-woman vaccination effort at the shelter.
"Dr. Vetri brought in a vaccine supply and cash to jump start the program," said Bob Clary, a county administrator recently installed as interim animal services manager at the shelter.
Clary also is part of the Sutter Animal Services Authority's Logistics Commi tee, formed in April to review staffing and protocol issues and make recommendations to the authority's board of directors.
That group also includes Brad McIntire, Yuba City's parks and recreation director, Danelle Stylos, who recently took over as Sutter County's community services director, and Megan Greve, principle analyst with the Sutter County Administrator's Office.
Greve has previous experience working as a financial manager for an animal shelter in Flagstaff, Ariz., and holds a bachelor's degree in animal science.
According to Greve, Sutter Animal Services Authority, which operates under a joint operating agreement reached in the wake of the grand jury report's publication, "is now the responsible board."
"It's a more cohesive group," Greve said, than its predecessor, an ad hoc animal services committee that previously met on and off for several years.
Unbeknownst to Vetri, a grand jury investigation under way at the time she was collecting funds for vaccinations, would pinpoint a need at the shelter for a vaccination program.
Her start-up program was welcomed at the shelter with open arms.
Shortly after she began, "funds became available for the vaccines," Vetri said.
On Monday, members of the Sutter Animal Services Authority — made up of elected officials from Sutter County, Yuba City and Live Oak, the entities invested in the existing and future shelter — voted to establish an interim shelter medicine program.
The program will include contracts for a part-time shelter veterinarian and a registered veterinary technician to treat animals at the shelter.
Vetri has a permit to perform veterinary medicine at animal shelters.
According to the grand jury report released last year, shelter staff and inmates working at the facility had been performing veterinary and vet tech duties in violation of state codes.
"They had been ignoring problems for so long, and didn't want to spend the money until they got in trouble," Vetri said of elected officials who allowed the practices to continue.
Shelter workers themselves, she said, "did the best they could with what they got."
In addition to the vaccination program, Vetri volunteers at the shelter one day each week.
Vetri examines and administers medicine to sick or injured animals and winds up pitching in with regular care duties because the shelter, she said, is understaffed.
"I clean cages," she said.
Vetri said she takes issue with recent comments from an elected official who implied that the shelter was overstaffed.
"We just don't have enough people to help," she said. "We need more people, and we need appropriate people."
Among upcoming changes to animal services operations are a pending consultant's contract with U.C. Davis veterinarian Kate Hurley, who inspected the shelter in March 2011 and contributed to the grand jury report.
Hurley's expertise will be critical, Clary said, for making sure all the necessary changes are made, including proper staffing and protocols.
"She's going to be feeding us valuable information," Clary said.
According to Stylos, some of the most important changes have yet to be made regarding animal services — both at the Second Street shelter and for the new one, which is still in the planning stages.
The new facility is slated to be built off Garden Highway near the existing shelter, with an expected completion date still 18 months or more away.
Management, volunteer staffing and protocols, education outreach, a spay/neuter program and fundraising efforts are all issues members of the logistics committee said they hope to address in the coming months.
According to Clary, the responsibility to change animal services in the county lies partly with its residents.
"Owners don't secure their animals. They don't spay or neuter and are only increasing the population in the shelter," he said. "The mindset is that they (pets) are disposable, and that's not the case."
"We make it too easy for the community to bring their animals to us and take them off their hands," he said.
Vetri delivered a similar message.
"We need to stop letting people let their animals have babies," she said. "There's a crazy amount of uneducated people — educating them would help, and we don't do enough of that."
"In Yuba County, no animal leaves that shelter unspayed or neutered," Vetri said.
Instituting a similar program she said, would result in fewer shelter animals to care for.
In spite of her criticism, she said, the outlook for animals in the county is improving with each passing week.
"We've been seeing more healthy animals and better adoptions," she said. "A lot less of them are dying."
CONTACT Nancy Pasternack at email@example.com or 749-4781. Find her on Facebook at /ADnpasternack or on Twitter at @ADnpasternack.